If like me, you tend to prefer fishing during the warmer months without all the wind, rain, hail and snow, you might store your rods and gear away in the garage while you wait for spring to begin to warm things. Once the days are warmer, you’ll blow the dust off all your fishing gear and head out to bag yourself some Crappie. However, you might have overlooked one thing. Perhaps you head out to your favorite fishing hole, cast your line out… and suddenly you have a fish! Unfortunately, the line snaps within a few seconds and you’re left scratching your head and wondering what you did wrong. Not one to be easily put off, you try again only for the same thing to happen a couple of minutes later. At this point you know something is definitely wrong, but what’s going on?

Fishing will go bad over time, especially if it’s not being used, stretched and being kept supple with frequent use. Just like everything else in the world, with enough time, fishing line will start to break down, lose its elasticity, and become brittle and prone to snapping.

So, how often should you replace your fishing line and what’s the average shelf life of line? We recently created a piece on the various types of fishing line that are available, so it makes sense to follow that up with an article that covers caring for your fishing line and knowing when to replace the lot. Many of the fishing lines available are relatively cheap, but some types, such as braided line cost a bit more, so knowing what line fatigue looks like and when you’re better of cutting your loses could save you time, money and gear.

As we’ve already discussed, fishing line definitely goes bad over time, but the length of time that takes depends on a lot of factors such as how often you go fishing, what environment you fish in or where you store your gear when not in use.

I tend to stop for the year at the beginning of November and then pick things up again at the start of March, depending on what the weather is doing and how busy I am with work or other projects. At this time I’ll generally just replace all the line, especially if it’s just monofilament. If I have something more expensive such as braided line, I’ll generally check it for damage and take a few feet off the end. It’s the ends that tend to experience the most abrasion and damage, so removing a few feet from the braided line gives me some confidence that the line is less likely to break. It’s worth noting, that fishing line that has been left out in direct sunlight or is subject to heat and cold will degrade faster than normal. So this is worth bearing in mind when storing gear.

What to Look Out For?

If you’d like to understand what to look out for when inspecting your fishing line, there’s a couple of easy to follow tips, depending on what sort of fishing line you’re using. It’s worth keeping in mind that any spare line you have in storage or in your tackle box can still go bad over time, it doesn’t matter if it’s not currently on a reel, so if you’re going to replace your line it’s worthwhile buying it straight from a shop.

Monofilament line tends to remember the shape it’s been stored in, so if it’s been on a reel for any length of time, it’ll loop and try to bunch up once it’s been let out. This in itself can cause a problem as the line is more likely to tangle or get caught on things. Monofilament is also the most susceptible to breakdown due to exposure to sunlight, so keeping your line on the parcel shelf in your car is a bad idea.

Fluorocarbon line is much denser than monofilament and has less of a ‘memory’, which means bunching and looping is less of a concern. You’ll still need to keep an eye out for fraying, stretching or any other sort of damage. It’s worth testing a small piece of line to see how easy it is to break, something that snaps without any stretch is likely past its best and too brittle to use.

Finally, braided line is the most resistant to wear and tear out of all the line types due to how it’s made, but it can still degrade. Keep an eye out for any obvious fraying or decolorization of the line. If it looks even a bit dodgy, then it’s probably past its best before date.

How Often Should You Replace Line?

As we’ve established above, the three different types of fishing line have their own individual weaknesses and strengths, but they are all susceptible to damage over time.

Monofilament is the most prone to fatigue and damage, but it’s also the cheapest. If you go fishing often, then it’s worthwhile changing the line once or twice a season. If you only periodically go fishing, then you can get away with changing it less frequently, but I would suggest changing it once a year at least.

Fluorocarbon is pretty tough stuff, so even with regular use, it should last at least a season. With less frequent fishing trips then there’s no reason why this couldn’t stretch to two or more seasons, just make sure to keep an eye on it and look out for signs of wear and tear. Make sure you store it somewhere sensible when not in use to maximize its durability.

Braided line will last a long time even with plenty of use. I have line that’s going into the 4th season with no obvious signs of wear and tear, and I’m confident it’ll last at least another season.

Knowing when to change fishing line largely comes down to common sense, if the line you’re using looks like it needs to be replaced, then it does. If using it is becoming a struggle, then it’s time to replace it. If you’re not confident in its abilities, then replace it. Any signs of damage are a good indication that it should be replaced.

Disposing of Old Line Safely

So, you’ve just spent the last hour replacing all of your old fishing line, and now you’re left wondering what you should do with the old stuff. Firstly, please be a responsible fisherman and don’t just dump the line in the bin. If you can, put the old line onto a spool to keep things tidy and much safer. Nearly all fishing like can be recycled, so if you’re planning to do anything else with it, put your old line into your recycling bin at home or take it to the nearest recycling center. However, if you’re the crafty type or someone in your family is, fishing line is often very useful for making bracelets, necklaces and other projects that require a thin strong line. If you’d rather keep things fishing related, you can always use your old line to practice tying knots, creating practice rigs or for anything else that doesn’t need to have guaranteed strength.

If you can’t recycle your old line, or use it for something else, your only option might be to put it out with the regular rubbish. Make sure the old line is firmly wound onto a spool and secure it in place with a knot and some tape or a rubber band to make sure it doesn’t come to lose. We don’t want our old line to end up around the neck of some wildlife, so do what you can to dispose of your line safely.

Conclusion

Periodically replacing your line is something you’re going to want to do in order to ensure you’re not going to end up with a snapped line and no fish, especially if just so happens to be the ‘big one’. It’s also the responsible thing to do so that you’re leaving lengths of line and hooked fish all over the place. We’ve all seen images of turtles, dolphin, seals and a range of other wildlife with life-threatening fishing line tangled around their necks or flippers, don’t be the person that’s responsible for causing these horrific injuries. Keeping a close eye on your line for fraying, color changes and damage will go a long way to making sure your line is in tip-top condition. When it’s time to replace a bad line, recycle it or put it to another use around the house, but try and avoid sending your old line to a landfill to spend the next century degrading. Following all of these steps will mean you’ll have more fun and make sure you’re doing your part in protecting the environment.

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